Popcorn and a Book (6): Inkheart

The Book: 2003

Written by Cornelia Funke, translated by Anthea Bell (Scholastic)

The Film: 2008

Directed by Iain Softley (New Line Cinema)

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Inkheart, but it’s a book that has stayed with me. Inkheart is a love letter to books. It is a story of a book within a book, of an author’s relationship with the world he/she creates, and of the relationship between books and readers. It is a world I love to live in where characters come to life and books are more than just words on a page.

The way in which Cornelia Funke’s beautiful novel acts as an ode to books just doesn’t—and perhaps can’t—quite translate to film. True Meggie and Mo share a moment of book appreciation in the market at the movie’s start, and again Meggie shares a moment with Elinor in her library (her beautiful wish-I-had-one-like-it library!), but it’s just not the same.

Something that I’m glad does translate to the film is that the characters have lives of their own—their stories extend beyond the author’s words. And it is when characters are truly well written that magic happens and they come to life. Inkheart, both book and film, takes this to the extreme where the characters really do step out of the pages and walk amongst us. And I love it for that.

In comparison to the book, the film really doesn’t stand a chance as the fact that it is no longer in book form takes away from the novel’s layers. That being said, the film by itself is quite entertaining. The sets and make-up are fantastic. I love the writing tattooed across the characters Darius reads out. And the cast is spectacular—Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Eliza Bennett… And I couldn’t ask for a better Dustfinger than Paul Bettany!  I’m still not sure I like Brendan Fraser as Mo though. He does a good enough job in sincere moments, but when things get intense he comes off a bit cheesy.

As is the case with most film adaptations, a lot is left out of the story and elements are changed—like the whispering books—but it is a good movie on its own. The film crew did a great job of making it a complete story with suffient explanation, actions, humour and emotion.

Really, what more can you ask for? If you’re looking for more, read the book! In fact, read the whole trilogy (it really is something every booklover should read), and experience just how powerful—and magical—books can truly be.

Share your thoughts on Inkheart in comments.

“Popcorn and a Book” is a bi-weekly meme I host where I will compare one book with its adapted film, looking at the content, the way it has been visualized, the experience, etc. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.

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